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Rapper Nelly still has love for his genre’s trailblazers, even after almost a quarter-century in the game.
The “Lil Bit” artist, 46, is being honored with the “I AM HIP HOP” award at tonight’s BET Hip Hop Awards, a full-circle moment from when the St. Louis rapper presented LL Cool J with the award in 2011.
And, asked to name which rappers have influenced his own career, Nelly cites the Notorious B.I.G., OutKast, NWA and others to Page Six before going on to name 1982’s “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five the greatest hip-hop song of all time.
“It touches your soul, till this day,” the Missouri native — née Cornell Iral Haynes Jr. — explains.
“If you listen to ‘The Message’ right now, you’re going to get the same feeling [as] when that brother put that song out … it’s still so relevant.”
Meanwhile, musing on his award, Nelly tells us, “It’s an honor anytime you get celebrated for your achievements in whatever it is that you do, especially if you’ve been doing it for almost 23 years.”
“It definitely feels like a blessing, you never take it for granted. And it makes you feel kind of old too,” he adds with a hearty laugh.
“It’s what you hope for, it’s what you wish for,” he continues. “I might’ve dreamed it, never could’ve imagined it, but I dreamed it. I’m just happy the hard work and sacrifice that was put into trying to have a great career is recognized at any point.”
The BET Hip Hop Awards 2021 will premiere tonight, Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 9 PM ET/PT on BET.
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